Mark Steel: Bush will soon be intervening in 'Pop Idol'

America acts as if it is allowing the rest of the world to try out democracy as a privilege
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The Independent Online

What a laugh that now the Peruvians, in the first round of their elections, have voted for the candidate most fiercely hostile to George Bush. Across the world, whether in Palestine, Spain or South America it seems that's the modern way to win an election. This might be picked up on in our local elections, with leaflets that say "Mrs Prendergast supports the plans for a zebra crossing to be installed behind the church hall. She also calls for an unprecedented wave of resistance against the imperialist warmongering of George Bush and his lickspittle acolytes. She pledges that, if elected as councillor, her priority will be to clean up the graffiti currently blighting the bus station, except for the mural depicting the Lyme Regis branch of Hizbollah in active service, which she is proud to have painted herself along with her two sons aged nine and six."

The Eurovision Song Contest will be won by a girl band from Belgium singing: "You know that you want me, and I know that I want you, but I also want land rights for the exploited indigenous people of Mexico."

The election in Peru followed a familiar pattern. The ex-army officer Ollanta Humala won support by promising to redistribute wealth towards the poor. So then Bush threatened to withdraw aid if Humala won, and the National Endowment for Democracy, which was founded by Ronald Reagan, began funding Humala's opponents.

This is an organisation apparently dedicated to spreading democracy, and Bush spoke recently at their convention, saying: "There are sceptics who say we can't expect to bring about democracy in every region of the world. They say some countries aren't suited to it. I say we should have more faith in the people." He dismissed those cynics as "unrealistic". Which will upset older Republicans, because in 1953 America invaded Guatemala, overthrowing the radical elected President because "democracy in this country is unrealistic". I suppose their logic was: "He'll never be able to carry out his promises to the poor, because we'll shoot him. And for him to suggest he can help them once he's dead is, frankly, unrealistic. So the only way out of this awkward situation is to shoot him."

Bush also boasted that one consequence of American policy was "in the 1970s democracy began to spread through Latin America". In Chile, for example, where an election was won by a radical President, until he was overthrown by a CIA-backed coup, and replaced by a General. Because the type of democracy the Americans favoured was a model in which you count the votes, and whoever has the most, you kill him. It's a method often referred to as proportional assassination.

Bush has also threatened Bolivia with withdrawal of aid because they voted for the wrong person, and in Venezuela has backed three attempts to overthrow the anti-Bush President Chavez. They've also spent six million dollars funding parties opposed to Chavez, so there could be a scam worth thinking about here. One of us announces we're standing for election in Paraguay, on a policy of nationalising coca leaves and banning the book of Genesis. The others oppose him and scream that the country's water supply should be sold to Exxon, and by the time everyone gets home there should be six million expressed into the account which we can all share out.

America acts as if it's allowing the rest of the world to try out democracy as a privilege, in the way a teacher might go out of the room for a while saying, "I'm trusting you to get on with your own work." But if a country elects the wrong person, America comes storming in yelling: "What is the meaning of this? I trusted you to be responsible but instead you vote for a maniac with a vaguely socialist approach to farming. Now we'll try once more and if you can't behave like grown capitalists we'll have to go back to my friend the General. Is that what you want? Hmm?"

So we get to the splendid twist that the winners of elections are condemned for being "anti-democratic". Bush declared that Chavez is "rolling back democracy," and now in Peru Ollanta Humala is similar.

It would make as much sense if Bush said: "US intervention may well become essential in Peru, because despite patient and persistent warnings to that country's dictatorially elected President, it's still got too many mountains. This continues to make life intolerable for cyclists and bowls players, and so reluctantly action will have to be taken to protect liberty and freedom."

And the more unpopular the regime becomes, the more belligerent he is. The National Endowment for Democracy will soon start intervening in elections such as Pop Idol, with news stories being planted that "the one with the curly hair who sang 'Light My Fire' was actually sending a coded message to his friends in al-Qa'ida, knowing they never miss the show".

I wonder whether Bush made one of his democracy speeches when he recently visited his good friend General Musharraf in Pakistan. Or his ally, the torturer Mr Karimov in Uzbekistan.

Or maybe there's a different organisation he promotes in that type of country, the National Endowment for Dictatorship. Where he says: "there are sceptics who say we can't expect to bring about dictatorship in every region of the world. They say some countries aren't suited to it. I say we should have more faith in the Generals."

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